Your guide to planning a European vacation
Susan Choi, owner of Mr. Susan cocktail bar, was relying on locals to keep the doors open during the height of the pandemic. Now that travel is back, Choi has noticed the influx of international guests through her doors, particularly visitors from the United States.
“You can see at the bar that all Americans are drinking margaritas and dirty martinis again,” says Choi.
With the easing of coronavirus restrictions in recent months, there have been clear signs of a pent-up demand for travel as visitors slowly return to Germany for a little European holiday. Here are a few tips if you’ve decided to do the same.
Travel to Germany is open to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. From June 11, travelers will no longer need to present a negative test or proof of recovery to enter the country. But there are other restrictions: Although the European Union has recommended lifting the mask requirement when flying, FFP2 or medical-grade masks apply to flights that start or land in Germany. Masks are recommended at German airports, but not mandatory.
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Airports in Europe experience the same crowds and chaos as US airports due to labor shortages. So give yourself plenty of time to check in your luggage, clear security and immigration controls, and eat before a long flight.
What you should know about restrictions
When entering shops, hotels, bars and restaurants in Germany, you no longer have to show proof of vaccination or wear a mask. A mask – especially an N95, KN95 or FFP2 – is required on public transport. As regulations can easily change, Ostendorf recommends checking regularly for updates in Berlin and other regions you will be visiting.
In order to mitigate the increase in the cost of living, the federal government is offering a nationwide 9-euro monthly pass for June, July and August. This ticket is available to everyone, including visitors, and can be used on local and regional trains, buses and trams. Tickets can be bought at the Deutsche Bahn ticket machines or at public transport stops.
While the discounted ticket encourages people to use public transport, trains across the country are filled with travelers taking advantage of the offer. Deutsche Bahn warns: Anyone planning a trip on tourist routes with the 9-euro ticket must expect a higher volume of passengers, especially on weekends and sunny days. To avoid crowds, travel on weekdays if possible.
Katherina Klimke, vice president of operations at 25hours Hotels, said bookings from Americans have doubled compared to last year, but they’re not at pre-pandemic levels. She advises visitors to book their hotel stay early to ensure the best rates and availability.
“While leisure destinations fill up faster and reservations two to three months in advance would be advisable, some city destinations could also be available at short notice,” adds Klimke.
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Sebastian Riewe, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, is also seeing an increase in bookings from Americans. They had some last minute booking requests that they couldn’t accommodate.
“That’s why we would ideally recommend our customers to go back to the old booking patterns – that is, a lead time of at least six to eight weeks, or ideally two to six months for international travel,” says Riewe.
Hotels and restaurants aren’t the only ones seeing a surge in bookings; Tours through Germany are on the rise again. Since March, BottleStops founder Jerome Hainz has received many inquiries and bookings for his wine tours and tastings for Mainz and the surrounding German wine regions. The only major difference is that more and more people are opting for private tours.
“It has to do with the fact that people want to be careful when they are in the car with strangers,” says Hainz.
Because of this demand, Hainz suggests booking private tours three to four weeks in advance, but he said public tours are more flexible and can sometimes be arranged at the last minute.
Here’s how to find tests before you return home
As of June 12, it will no longer be necessary to have a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States. You might still want to get tested before your flight home, just to have peace of mind.
You should still get tested while traveling, health experts say
You can find testing sites at every major airport in Germany, but expect to book an appointment and pay a premium. The easiest and cheapest way to test is to purchase a home coronavirus test, which is available at most grocery stores and pharmacies for less than $2.